Category Archives: Protests

Open Letter to Congress: Why the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019 Must Be Opposed

Note: Congress is currently considering the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019.  If this bill becomes law it will increase conflict between the US and China and increase US meddling in Hong Kong. It will become an excuse for unilateral coercive measures (sanctions) against China and Hong Kong. In the Open Letter below we explain in detail why this letter should be opposed. We urge you to share it with your representatives in Washington and urge them to oppose the Act.

You can download the letter as a pdf here.
hong-kong-bill-critique-noh-zeese-flowers

Thanks for taking action. KZ

HR 3289, the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019, was referred to the committee on Foreign affairs on June 13th, 2019. The bill “directs various departments to assess whether political developments in Hong Kong justify changing Hong Kong’s unique [i.e. preferential economic and trade] treatment under U.S. law and to determine whether China has eroded Hong Kong’s civil liberties and rule of law as protected by Hong Kong’s Basic Law.”

Currently, 16 senators and 25 House members from both parties have signed on as co-sponsors.  The bill also directs the government to impose sanctions to those who suppress “freedom” in the territory.

Currently, the leaders of the “leaderless movement” of the Hong Kong protests are touring the capital, urging the US congress to pass this bill.  Despite claims of extreme obstruction and human rights oppression, it’s clear that they are traveling freely out of Hong Kong, speaking their minds freely while urging a foreign power to assess and impose sanctions on their own state.  These contradictions indicate that all their claims should be critically analyzed.  Some of these will be directly addressed below.

The bill itself should be opposed on the following grounds:

This bill would not serve the purposes for which it is written, namely, to reaffirm the objectives and principles set forth in the United States-Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992.

Nor would it affirm, support, or further Human Rights in Hong Kong.

The bill accomplishes little except to draw attention to US influence on the Hong Kong protests and highlights US officiousness in Hong Kong politics.  This is within a toxic atmosphere of violence, chaos, and intrigue — engendered and engineered by the protestors — where the US is already credibly accused of fomenting, supporting, and encouraging this violence: by lending it moral support, meeting with its leaders, having high-level political and diplomatic meetings, threatening consequences if suppressed, and funding the lead organizations through the NED.

This bill is an act of moral hazard, and implicates the US congress in violence, destruction, mayhem, injury, potential loss of life, and the degradation of civic processes.  It will validate the current perception of the violent protests as US gray zone aggression in search of a pretext for further sanctions and aggression.

Furthermore, it will also degrade currently antagonistic China-US relations even further, pushing relations towards overt hostility and direct conflict, and setting the preconditions for war.

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The key arguments against this bill are as follows:

The PRC has upheld its commitments to Hong Kong in the Basic Agreement and Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992.

As the British returned the colony of Hong Kong to China in 1997, they negotiated the conditions of return and political statehood in the Basic Agreement, and the Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992.  The PRC has upheld all its commitments to Hong Kong SAR elucidated in the Basic Agreement and the Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992:  the fundamental letter and the law of the Joint agreement and the Basic Law have all been upheld, as listed below:

  • The chief executive has been appointed by the Central People’s Government on the basis of the results of elections or consultations held locally.

Although the British never allowed elections of the Hong Kong governor, as they left, they instituted provisions for the election of the chief executive by universal suffrage.  However, there is no clause committing Hong Kong to direct democracy, nor is there a specified timeline for this suffrage to be achieved.

Specifically: The method for selecting the Chief Executive shall be specified in the light of the actual situation in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and in accordance with the principle of gradual and orderly progress. The ultimate aim is the selection of the Chief Executive by universal suffrage upon nomination by a broadly representative nominating committee in accordance with democratic procedures.

  • Chinese and foreign nationals previously working in the public and police services in the government departments of Hong Kong remain in employment.British and other foreign nationals are employed in public posts in government departments.

High ranking members of the Hong Kong police force are British. The current Chief Executive, Carrie Lam,was a British citizen (who renounced her citizenship). Key members of the Legislative council are or have been British citizens

Currently there is a large roster of British and Commonwealth judges in the Judicial system: two thirds  (16 out of 22 judges) on the Court of Final Appeals (Hong Kong’s Supreme Court) are British Nationals or Commonwealth members.  Eight of these are Peers (Lords and Ladies of the British nobility).

  • The current social and economic systems in Hong Kong have remained unchanged.

The Basic Law committed Hong Kong to a free-market capitalism, and prevented the institution of socialist measures. Hong Kong is still a free-market capitalist state, and it can be strongly argued the underlying cause of these protests is its unregulated, laissez-faire, corporate, finance and real estate-driven capitalism.

  • Economic Law and practices have been maintained as originally agreed upon.

These laws have not been abrogated or changed, even though these economic policies have created tremendous hardship to the working classes, in particular in regards to unaffordable housing and poor prospects for work, and run counter to the PRC’s widely acknowledged practices of lifting up society as a whole and eradicating poverty.

  • Hong Kong Special Administrative Region has retained the status of an international financial center

Its markets for foreign exchange, gold, securities and futures have continued, along with free flow of capital, and the independent Hong Kong dollar continues to circulate and remain freely convertible.

  • The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region has maintained independent finances.

The Central People’s Government does not levy taxes on the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

  • The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region has established mutually beneficial economic and cultural relations with other countries; and establishes independent agreements with states, regions and relevant international organisations.

This includes its own extradition agreements with the US, UK, and 18 other countries.

  • The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region issues its own travel documents for entry into and exit from Hong Kong.

Last but not least:

  • Rights and freedoms, including those of the person, of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association…of movement, of strike, of academic research and of religious belief have all been ensured by law.

Private property, ownership of enterprises, legitimate right of inheritance and foreign investment all have been protected by law. All of these enumerated rights have been protected and defended by Hong Kong law. In particular, during 15 weeks of some of the most violent protests that the region has seen in recent years, the Hong Kong authorities have treated these with extreme attention to Human Rights and due process. No law abrogating the right to protest was passed, nor were there any restrictive measures passed: no curfews, no general bans on assembly or protest, no bans on masks, bans on signs, or any such law.  No measures were passed abrogating freedom of expression.  Nor has there been any arbitrary arrest or detention. Although 1200 protestors have been arrested, almost all of them have been released.

To date, a single violent protestor has been sentenced to 80 hours of community service.  (A single individual has an eye injury, but is recovering, and there is no proof that the police were responsible, and contrary to all logic, the individual in question is using all possible legal means to prevent investigation and the gathering of evidence).

No other violent civil protest in recent memory—not in France (Yellow Vests), not in Spain (Catalan Independence), not in India (Kashmir), in Indonesia (Papua and West Papua), in the US (Standing Rock, Ferguson, Baltimore)– has there been such extended restraint demonstrated by the forces of order against such extreme rioting and violence. Over a period of 15 weeks of violent rioting, infrastructure attacks, road blockades and attacks, subway arson and sabotage, airport occupation, mass beatings of civilian bystanders, no protestors have been killed or suffered serious injury. However, bystanders and people criticizing the protestors have been violently attacked and seriously injured: they have been mobbed, assaulted, and beaten unconscious with pipes, baseball bats, sticks; attacked with caustic lye (drain cleaner), or in the case of police, burned with Molotov cocktails, and stabbed. Police stations, Legislative Chambers, Political offices have been surrounded and attacked and set fire to, and even graves have been desecrated. Contrary to the claims of protestors, it is inconceivable the US or any other country would have tolerated such massive violence and insurrection.

To summarize:  Hong Kong and China have been, and are clearly following, the accords signed and agreed to.

  • There has been no interference with elections, electoral outcomes, domestic politics, or domestic legislation.
  • Hong Kong has an independent judiciary — considered one of the most independent in the world.
  • Hong Kong has a vibrantly independent media, unions, corporations, and electoral bodies.
  • Hong Kong exercises independent executive, legislative, and judicial power, including that of final adjudication.

Global analysis bears this out: the Cato Institute’s Human Freedom Index evaluates the countries of the world across 79 distinct indicators of personal and economic freedom including:  Rule of Law, Freedom of Religion, Freedom of Association, Assembly, and Civil Society, Freedom of Expression, Legal System and Property Rights.  It’s understood that it is “a broad measure of human freedom, understood as the absence of coercive constraint”.

On this basis, the Human Freedom Index currently ranks Hong Kong as the third freest country in the world (2018), with only New Zealand and Switzerland ahead of it.  Hong Kong currently ranks 14 rankings above the United States in Freedom (17th), and 114 rankings ahead of Ukraine, where the US recently intervened with support for “democracy and human rights”.  For over a decade — under so-called “Chinese encroachment” — it has ranked consistently in the top 3 countries of the HFI, making it one of the freest states in the world, according to conservative analysis.

This renders allegations of “loss of freedom” or “human rights” to be without substance or evidence.

The leaders of the protests, now touring the United States urging sanctions against Hong Kong on these grounds, are themselves the purest refutation of their own claims.

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Misinformation on Hong Kong

There is, however, a constant drum beat of misinformation. These includes allegations that:

Beijing was behind the extradition bill:

This is untrue.  The extradition bill was drafted, after extensive public consultation, in response to a heinous murder of a pregnant woman that was not extraditable under the current regime.  A long overdue bill for case-by-case extradition was written to plug this loophole, while explicitly excluding extradition for political crimes.  The bill fits all the requirements of a well-crafted extradition bill, and has multiple safeguards and checks to protect human rights and political abuse.  It is a well-crafted piece of legislation that would pass muster in any democratic, sovereign state. Furthermore, it includes 8 layers of review, including 2 stages of administrative review, and 6 layers of judicial review by Hong Kong’s fiercely independent judiciary (see above).

The bill was designed to render people to mainland China:

This was a general bill with guidelines and processes for extradition to any country. The framing of “extradition to China” was by the Anti-China protestors, and bears no relation to the actual bill or its intent.

Almost all sovereign countries have extradition agreements.  Hong Kong is part of China, and the very notion that Hong Kong is some sort of extraterritorial criminal sanctuary outside the reach of Chinese law is a concept without legal merit.

Note also that the bill itself has been completely withdrawn.

Note also, that one of the most vociferous opponents of the bill, Martin Lee — one of the unspoken leaders and lobbyists for the protests — himself urged for a comparable extradition bill, giving the lie to the assertion that the extradition process is problematic.

This is part of Beijing’s encroachment on Hong Kong’s autonomy:

The object facts show that this has not been the case, as enumerated and elaborated above (see “key arguments”) , and below. Hong Kong has a fiercely independent judiciary, and it’s inconceivable that it would extradite someone on Beijing’s political whim.  Furthermore, the notion that having an extradition treaty with another country renders an autonomous state less free or sovereign is ridiculous on its face: extradition treaties do not constitute an infringement on sovereignty.

But Beijing has been resisting a demand for universal suffrage since the British left and still does. Hong Kong citizens became accustomed to freedom under the British, and rightfully claim it against Chinese encroachment.

It’s important to emphasize that the British never gave universal suffrage to the Hong Kong people.  It ran a brutal, demeaning, colonial apartheid state, where Chinese were second class people, where segregated Jim Crow policies were the norm, and during Anti-British protests, Hong Kong citizens were often shot dead in the streets or disappeared. The British colonial administration put suffrage on the bill after never having allowed a meaningful vote during its control of Hong Kong, as a final act of challenge to the Chinese for reclaiming its own territory.  Nevertheless, the Chinese, accepted this because they wanted a peaceful return of Hong Kong to China, and they did not want to derail the process or encourage capital flight.

Regarding the actual state of affairs within Hong Kong, Beijing does not decide what Hong Kong does internally but allows a “high degree of autonomy”. This is the essence of “two systems”, which the Chinese have upheld (see “key arguments” above).  Hong Kong legislates, implements, and arbitrates its own laws, and they are following the guidelines for “orderly development” of universal suffrage that were outlined in the Basic Law.  Although constituencies currently elect the Chief Executive and Legislators, these can be legitimately acknowledged as accepted political practices in part of an evolving democratic process.  They certainly do not constitute proof of Beijing’s control.

But aren’t the “functional constituencies” that elect legislative members under the influence of Beijing?

These constituencies are diverse and reflect many groups, including business, labor, trade and professional groups.  They, themselves, represent a large number of individual members who represent a wide range of views.  A constituency is not a single platform party.  Many have members who are anti-Beijing, as shown in the diversity of election results and party seats, many of whom are opposed to Beijing, or are outright nativist/secessionist.

But didn’t Beijing interfere in the elections by disqualifying the election of six members elected to the Legislative Council in July of 2017?

Sixtus Leung, Yau Wai-ching, Leung Kwok-hung, Nathan Law, Yiu Chung-yim and Lau Sil-lai were elected to the Legislative Council on 14 July 2017.  According to Article 104 of the Hong Kong Basic Law, elected members of the Legislative Council must swear an oath to uphold the law and swear allegiance to the Hong Kong SAR.  This is basic legal practice in all political bodies, and an oath incorrectly delivered can be cause for disqualification. An oath deliberately abused, incorrectly spoken, insincerely delivered, or with obscenities added, or otherwise edited or lengthened would result in invalidation across most legal bodies.

The secretary general of the Hong Kong Legislative Council invalidated their oaths because phrases were added, protests statements made, and obscenities deliberately spoken: “the People’s Republic of China” was referred to as the “People’s re-f*cking of Chee-na” (a derogatory term comparable to the N-word).  Multiple independent judicial reviews by the Hong Kong Judiciary upheld these decisions. This is an action that would have happened in any reasonable legislative or political body.

The working and middle classes are demanding democracy, not the business class, which is doing fine colluding with mainland Chinese state and private capitalists.  They deserve democracy.

The working classes want — and deserve — better representation, and better conditions of living or working, which the current political system cannot deliver (and which Beijing cannot change until 2047).  This is not a fault with Beijing, but is a fault written into the Hong Kong basic law, as scripted, designed, and negotiated by the British, which allocated disproportionate power to business interests in order to conserve Hong Kong’s freewheeling capitalist system, diminish popular will, and maintain its status as a haven for wealthy capitalists.  This basic law absolutely bans the implementation of socialism or socialist practices; and guarantees capitalism until 2047.

In particular, Real Estate interests and the Anti-China Pan Democrats (currently prominent in the protests) in the legislature were instrumental in opposing the large scale creation of social/public housing as China has done on the mainland. As a result, currently there are only about 150,000 units of public housing–a pittance relative to the actual demand and need.  These groups have created the extreme housing pressures they claim to deplore and seek to blame China for.

But there were large rallies.  This is an undeniable expression of the Hong Kong people opposing the Chinese.

Large rallies have been noted, but police counts claim about 1/10 of what is claimed.  Major western news agencies, using facial recognition technology, state that only a fraction of the claimed numbers can be verified. As noted elsewhere, it’s also important to note that there were large rallies against the protestors, and in support of the administrations, although these were largely erased from the western press and have been de-ranked on google.

Note also that the large rallies have tapered off.  As of the current moment protests seem to number only the hundreds, occasionally, thousands. This is a small percentage of a metropolis of 7.4 Million.

Note also that these protests have turned incredibly violent and ugly. For example, a reporter for a Chinese mainland newspaper was attacked, bound, tortured and beaten by protesters during their takeover of the Hong Kong International Airport. When police and rescuers tried to free him, the protesters blocked them and also attempted to block the ambulance that eventually bore him off to the hospital, and beat the unconscious individual with a US Flag. Since then, countless Hong Kong citizens have also been mobbed, and attacked and beaten — sometimes to the point of unconsciousness — for simply opposing the views of protestors.  They have also been doxed, threatened, and had their businesses or homes vandalized or firebombed.  The ugliness, violence, and terrorism of these protestors is a far cry from what any civilized society could tolerate as reasonable expression of dissent, nor do these protests adhere to any of the touted values of free speech for those who disagree with them.

The pro-democracy movement is a threat to Beijing’s control of Hong Kong’s government and its corrupt protection of the business elite’s banking, real estate, corporate cartels. Big finance capitalism and Chinese state capitalism work hand in hand.

Large sectors of the pro-“democracy” movement are actually bankrolled by certain wealthy anti-China business leaders, media barons, corporations, and receive extensive support — moral, political, financial — from the US and the NED.  This gives the lie to the assertion that this is a “David and Goliath” fight.

This is also why the movement does not have a single articulated demand relative to business, business practices, real estate, or even capitalism, state, or financial, or otherwise.  Instead it focuses on opaque demands that are both abstract, unattainable, or demand extra-institutional measures that go against the separation of powers, for example, that demand the Chief executive dismiss all charges against protestors.   The single actionable demand — the retraction of the bill — has already happened.

Unplanned capitalist economies trend towards a bloated corporate finance sector, and this leads to the dysfunction of an extractive rentier economy.  No amount of American or British flag waving or appeal to a deluded colonial nostalgia will paper over this fundamental contradiction.

What are the problems in Hong Kong then, if not Beijing?

Economic factors: Unrestrained FIRE (Finance, Insurance, Real Estate) destabilizes society.

Hong Kong is one of the most unequal places on the planet — a dystopian neoliberal state and tax haven that boasts of 93 Billionaires, 14% poverty (over 20% child poverty) and the most unaffordable real estate in the world.  Up to 200,000 people live in literal cages — some as small as 16 square feet — and the majority of working class families live in tiny partitioned apartments that are smaller than a parking space. This inequality, extreme inequality of income, shortage of housing fit for human habitation, and lack of hope is the basic tinderbox.  This has to do with the failure of the Hong Kong’s model of political economy: a laissez-faire capitalist economy lacking basic taxation, captured by FIRE.

Institutional factors: Unresolved Issues of Colonization.

Anti-Chinese secessionists, nativists, and independence activists in Hong Kong have monopoly of several powerful key institutions which bolster their power and aggravate the conflict: in particular, an extreme right-wing media empire, an educational system strongly influenced by colonial values and nostalgia, and which reproduces its values among the young, and certain sectors of the  business/managerial classes allied with Western colonial values.

Cultural factors: Internalized Colonization.

Hong Kong residents also have cultural antagonisms dating from the colonial period.

At the time of the handover, Hong Kong was 30% of China’s GDP, and Hong Kong citizens were entrained to believe they were semi-British — being the recipients of British culture and administration — and disdained the mainland Chinese. Many groups in Hong Kong were also refugees from Communism. Having copied and taken on, for decades, British class mannerisms and colonial values, as a sort of cultural surplus value, and being valorized as the financial hub of Asia, Hong Kong citizens now find themselves at a lower rung of the global hierarchy: Hong Kong, itself, is now less than 3% of GDP.  When it served as a gateway to China, Hong Kong was essential — everything passed through Hong Kong: trade, ports, financing/investment, logistics, etc. It is now on a downward trajectory, a city-state whose prime has passed. At the same time, it is also dependent on China for basic survival: it gets its water, electricity, and most of its food from China.  It also relies on trade and tourism from China.  This fundamental contradiction: that Hong Kong cannot survive without China, but it disdains and rejects it based on implanted colonial values is a large part of the antagonism. (An analogy would be a foster child raised in a privileged family that has been reunited with its “lower-status” biological parent).

These are fundamental issues and contradictions around culture, values, and identity, that must be resolved over the long term, but will not yield to shibboleths around “freedom”, nor will they be transformed through violent shock therapy or foreign intervention.

Geopolitical Factors:

Hong Kong and its protests are being used to attack, harass, and delegitimate China, as the US has designated China a “revisionist power” (i.e. national enemy) of the 21st Century in its National Security Strategy and National Defense Strategy.

China’s key threat is the threat of a viable, non-western, non-imperialist, model of development.

Hong Kong is one of a series of attempts by Anti-China Hawks in Washington to maintain a “global unipolar US hegemony” by interfering and manipulating the geostrategic chessboard, in particular by stoking violent dissent and separatism within China.

These extreme factions of the body politic, including key current and former members of the current administration, are openly, vociferously anti-China, blaming China for all the ills of the US, and openly agitating for direct confrontation with China.

The US people and congress should avoid involving itself in this ugly partisan battle, making common cause with US hawks, Neocons, White Supremacists, and Hong Kong nativists and colonialists.  It should avoid ineffectual grandstanding, that can have no good outcomes for the Hong Kong people, US-China relations, the US, or the World.

The US Congress should base its legislative decisions on facts and discernment, not emotions or directed media campaigns

And above all, it must oppose this legislation, as do the vast majority of peaceful and freedom loving people in Hong Kong, the US, and the world.

Empires Are a Secret until They Start Falling

In the past, we have written about the 2020s as a decade when the United States Empire will end. This is based on Alfred McCoy’s predictions (listen to our interview with him on Clearing the FOG). Sociologist and peace scholar John Galtung believes US Empire will fall much faster, losing world dominance by 2020. Much of what he predicted when he said this in 2016 is happening now. In particular, there is a rise in “reactionary fascism” or a desire to go back to the “good old days,” the cost of maintaining the empire is taking an increasing economic toll and other countries are starting to rebuke the US, both its requests for military assistance and its unfair economic demands.

What this means for people in the United States and around the world depends on whether we can build a mass popular movement with the clarity of vision, skills, and solidarity necessary to navigate what is and will surely be a turbulent period. There are no guarantees as to the outcome. Failure to act could result in a disastrous scenario – at best, that the US will continue to try to hold on to power by waging economic and military warfare abroad, weakening the economy at home, and undermining necessities such as housing, healthcare, education and the transition to a Green economy. At worst, as Galtung describes, there could be “an inevitable and final war” involving nuclear weapons.

The People’s Mobilization to Stop the US War Machine and Save the Planet is next weekend. CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS. You must register in advance for the Monday night solidarity event. RSVP at bit.ly/RSVPapathtopeace. And sign the Global Appeal for Peace here.

When Empire Is In Decline

Alfred McCoy says that it is only when empires are in decline that people begin to recognize they live in an empire and start to talk about it. While discussion of empire hasn’t broken into the corporate media, it is certainly happening in the independent media. A concerted effort by a popular movement could bring it to the fore, just as Occupy changed the political dialogue about wealth inequality and the power of money. People in the US need to face some stark realities when it comes to declining US global power.

For starters, the United States does not currently have the capacity to wage a “Great Power Conflict” even though that is the goal of the national security strategy. The loss of its manufacturing base and lack of access to minerals necessary for producing weapons and electronics means the US does not have the resources to fight a great war. Much of the US’ manufacturing has been outsourced to other countries, including those targeted by US foreign policy. Resources necessary for weapons and electronics are in China, Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Venezuela. It’s no surprise that the US is maintaining a military presence in Afghanistan, has increased its presence in Africa through AFRICOM and is struggling to wrest control of Venezuela.

Despite these attempts, the US is not having success. There is no military solution for the US in Afghanistan. As Moon of Alabama explains, the Taliban has taken control of more territory than it has had since the US started the war and has no reason to negotiate with the US. He advises, “The U.S. should just leave as long as it can. There will come a point when the only way out will be by helicopter from the embassy roof.”

Alexander Rubinstein writes the failures in Afghanistan can be attributed to Zalmay Khalilzad, currently the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation. Khalilzad has led US foreign policy in Afganistan and Iraq since the presidency of George W. Bush, and before that worked with Carter’s National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, who provided crucial support for the Mujahideen to draw the Soviet Union into a quagmire. The writing is on the wall that the US must leave Afghanistan, but that is unlikely to happen as long as people such as Khalilzad and Elliott Abrams, who has a similar ideology, are in charge.

As the US-led coup in Venezuela continues to fail due to a lack of support for it within the country, resilience to the effects of the unilateral coercive economic measures (sanctions) and exposure of attempts to create chaos and terror by paramilitary mercenaries, the US grows increasingly desperate in its tactics. There has already been a failed assassination attempt against President Maduro, a US freight company tied to the CIA has been caught smuggling weapons and the US and its Puppet Guaido have been implicated in a terrorist plot as the failed coup enters a more dangerous phase. This week, the Organization of American States voted to invoke a treaty, the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (TIAR), which would allow military intervention. Mexico strongly opposed that possibility. This comes as Venezuela has strengthened troops at the Colombian border after discovering terrorist training camps on the Colombian side. With allies such as Russia and China, an attack on Venezuela would not only hurt the region but could go global.

Despite the Asian Pivot under President Obama during his first administration and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper’s comment this week that the US is directing a lot of energy toward China, analysts predict the US will fail to achieve dominance in the Asia-Pacific. China is purchasing weapons from Russia that are superior to US systems, is strengthening its military coordination with Russia through drills and is expanding its global ties through the Belt and Road Initiative. Matthew Ehret writes in Strategic Culture, “Those American military officials promoting the obsolete doctrine of Full Spectrum dominance are dancing to the tune of a song that stopped playing some time ago. Both Russia and China have changed the rules of the game on a multitude of levels….”

Protests in Hong Kong, as we described in a recent newsletter, are being used to stoke greater anti-China sentiment in the US. As often occurs, the sophisticated propaganda arm of US-backed color revolutions excites leftist activists, but each day it becomes clearer just how deep the US’ influence is. K. J. Noh provides a helpful guide – a list of seven signs a protest is not a popular progressive uprising. One sign is Hong Kong protesters are supporting a bill in the US Congress, the so-called “Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.” The bill would allow the United States to sanction Hong Kong officials.

Andre Vltchek attended a recent protest and interviewed some of the participants. He found the democracy protesters have little grasp on the oppression Hong Kongers faced under British colonization, they attack anyone who disagrees with them and they are destroying public infrastructure. One of the protest leaders, Joshua Wong, is openly meeting with figures connected to US regime change efforts, and NED-backed organizations are planning an anti-China protest in Washington, DC on September 29. Their new propaganda symbol is a Chinese flag with a Swastika on it. No surprise that was evident at the protests in Hong Kong this weekend.

The US is already at war with China with battlefronts on trade and the Asian Pacific. The propaganda around Hong Kong showing prejudice against China is part of manufacturing consent for the conflict between the US and China, which will define the 21st Century. US militarism is also escalating to involve space. This week, the US conducted its first space war game and Putin warned of a space arms race.

Our Tasks as Activists

It was good news this past week that President Trump asked John Bolton, a white supremacist neocon who disrupted any attempts at negotiation, to resign from his position as National Security Adviser. Glen Ford of Black Agenda Report writes, “Every sane person on the planet should be glad to see Bolton go.” But, even with Bolton gone, the US War Machine will rage on with bi-partisan support. Whether Trump starts to live up to his campaign rhetoric of non-intervention remains to be seen. The appointment of Michael Kozak as the new US envoy to Latin America is a bad sign.

Almost two centuries of Manifest Destiny that went beyond North America to spread US Empire across the globe will not end overnight. It will take a concerted effort to build a national consensus against the dominant ideologies of white supremacy and US exceptionalism to change the course of US foreign policy. Fundamental tasks of that effort include education, organizing and mobilizing. Below are some examples of each.

Education:

The Palestinian Great March of Return, a weekly nonviolent protest in Gaza demanding the right of return granted by the United Nations, continues and each week Israelis injure and murder unarmed Palestinians. Abby Martin and Mike Prysner of The Empire Files produced an excellent documentary about it, “Gaza Fights For Freedom,” and are touring the country to raise awareness. Listen to our interview with Abby Martin on Clearing the FOG. Find a showing near you or organize one.

The United States uses unilateral coercive measures (sanctions) that are illegal under international law to wage war on other countries. The Treasury Department currently lists 20 countries sanctioned by the US, but the US also uses threats of sanctions to wield power. Sanctions are warfare, even though they are not commonly viewed that way. They result in the suffering and death of mostly civilians. Kevin Cashman and Cavan Kharrazian explain how sanctions work, why they violate international law and how they threaten global stability.

Organizing:

Alison Bodine and Ali Yerevani encourage activists to avoid the organizing pitfall of getting caught up in debates about the internal politics of countries targeted by US imperialism. Our tasks, as citizens of imperialist countries, are to stop our governments from intervening in the affairs of other countries and demand they respect international law. We also have a task of building solidarity with civilians of other countries. It will require a global mass movement to address major issues such as the climate crisis, wealth inequality, colonization, and violence.

Citizen to citizen diplomacy is critical in building this mass movement and solidarity. Ann Wright, retired from the military and State Department, writes about the challenges of citizen to citizen diplomacy as she tours Russia. Ajamu Baraka, national organizer of Black Alliance for Peace, reminds us that war and militarism are class issues in his address to an international meeting of trade unions held in Syria.

We are strong believers in breaking out of the confines of the narrative presented by corporate media about countries outside the US. Our trips to Iran and Venezuela this year were invaluable learning experiences. We hope to visit more targeted countries. An effort that came out of these trips is the new Global Appeal for Peace, first steps toward creating an international network to complement the more than 120 non-aligned movement countries that are resolved to respect international law and sovereignty and take action to create peace and prevent the catastrophic climate crisis. Sign on to this effort at GlobalAppeal4Peace.net.

Mobilizing:

The People’s Mobilization to Stop the US War Machine and Save the Planet starts next weekend. On Saturday night, Black Alliance for Peace is sponsoring a discussion, “Race, Militarism and Black Resistance in the ‘Americas’” in the Bronx. On Sunday we will rally and march to the UN with Embassy Protectors, Roger Waters and many more. On Monday night, we have a special solidarity night at Community Church of New York. Registration is required as there will be high-level representatives of impacted countries speaking about the challenges they face. Click here to register.

Rage Against the US War Machine will take place October 11 and 12 in Washington, DC. This is the second annual event organized by March on the Pentagon. Click here for details.

We also ask you to join the Embassy Protectors Defense Committee. Sign the petition to drop the Trump administration’s charges against us for protecting the Venezuelan Embassy this spring. We are facing up to a year in prison and exorbitant fines even though it was the US State Department that violated the Vienna Convention by raiding the embassy in May. We will tour Northern California in October and are planning more tours to raise awareness that the struggle to end the US  coup and interventions in Venezuela continues.

John Galtung predicts that the fall of the US Empire could have a devastating impact on domestic cohesion in the United States. As the US loses its position of global supremacy, we have an opportunity to fundamentally reshape what we as a nation represent. We can become cooperative global citizens in a world free of oppression, violence, and poverty if we do the work of joining in international solidarity for these goals.

Chakras, Subtle Bodies and the Aura

It’s a modest apartment in Newport where I sit with Susan Swift to go over “quite the life” as any listener might say about this feisty, spiritual and articulate, world-traveling woman.

The hitching post Susan and I tie our respective philosophical steeds on is “philosophy” and “fate,” although we could have brought in a whole team of other steeds to pull the conversation toward all spiritual directions.

“I know what is mine to do,” the 73-year-old Swift states early on in our talk. Since her life here on the coast — Five Rivers first — not only started in 1972 as a search for environmental justice, she also fell into a what would be a life-long walkabout as a student of karma, Dharma and the meaning of interconnected “souls.”

Before the Central Coast mountains, Waldport, Seal Rock and Newport, Susan was living the Southern California lifestyle in Compton.

The Alsea basin seems worlds away from her birthplace of Inglewood. Quickly, though, she and her husband and a whole slew of residents became embroiled in cloak and dagger drama, rising to the level of the US Forest Service spraying chemicals on their land, Dow Chemical and their lawyers attempting to wear down citizens’ groups, bugged telephones, and various sundry nefarious things unfolding in a seemingly isolated rural community.

One of Susan’s cohorts has already been featured in my column Deep Dive — Carol Van Strum. For more information on those battles with toxics, bad science and broken promises by officials breaking the rule of protecting public health, safety and welfare, read Oregon Coast TODAY, “A Real-Life Toxic Avenger.”

Sometimes a young life lived produces an amazingly detailed and complex life, for sure. However, in the end, when a journalist runs into a person like Swift, with seven-plus decades under her belt, a series of floodgates open up.

Toxins, Dirty Water, Building Family

Sure, Citizens Against Toxic Sprays is a big part of her foundation, 45 years ago when she was living in the woods, in a teepee and a small shack with Calvin Parker, husband number two (one of three, but who’s counting), and her son Joe Lund from a previous marriage.

C.A.T.S. was created with the organizing skills of Susan and others in the rural community, propelled by fear — the debilitating, permanent and deadly harm being perpetrated by officials and for-profit companies upon adults, children, pets, penned animals, wildlife and drinking water through herbicide spraying.

There’s plenty of newspaper copy and radio clips on Susan’s life out here, her singing, putting on events for the legal battle against the chemical companies and their spraying ways; her work on the Lincoln County Planning Commission and other issues tied to public health. She’s been featured in a November 23, 1980 article in Salem’s Statesman Journal.

What anchors much of what I see while talking with Susan (and in reporting on the people of this area) is best captured in one short passage from that article about Susan written by Kristine Rosemary with the Statesman Journal:

Now, to make any sense of the art of diplomacy as practiced in the hidden rural valleys and insulated towns of the Oregon Coast Range, you must consider this: It is a place of overlapping generations of emigrants, each with its own notions of how to live with the land. Rain and shards of Chinese-looking mists blow into those hollows in a thrashing wind. And writhing vines of domestic blackberry gone feral make a slow triumph of thorns. The children of homesteaders who came to farm these fertile valleys were joined 50 years after, by a second wave of urban exiles.

An emblematic quote and a microcosm of what this Oregon Coast now faces with population influxes, lack of affordable housing, more pollution to contend with, climate change and shifting economic, cultural and generational baselines. What is left out even in this Statesman Journal’s prescient description is what’s not included so many times in countless articles — who was here first.

The Siuslaw and Kuitsh people began settling the coast more than 9,000 years ago. They have probably lived in the same locations for hundreds of generations.

Who knows if that paper mill, hotel or housing development was built on an ancient significant site? Or on top of sacred burial grounds, or over summer root-picking fields or a shaman’s spiritual place?

Coast as Healing Center

Susan Swift, RN, formerly known as Mrs. Parker, Swedish massage therapist, is keenly aware of Native American history as her daughter, Autumn Rayne, is part Cheyenne. What has been germinated from those early days in Five Rivers, then in Waldport, and then to the Valley and even Portland, is a determined septuagenarian who has lived on a wildlife refuge in India, ended up in Egypt on a spiritual journey and has met the Dali Lama.

There are stories layered onto life lessons, like shoots on an old fig tree. Her past, Susan says, is her journey forward. She’s helped Mo and her husband (of the Oregon Coast’s famed seafood and chowder restaurants, Mo’s) get through the last days of their lives as their in-home certified care taker. She’s played guitar and sang with husband number three — musician and instrument maker, and she’s chased elephants out of her garden of succulents.

Iterations of her life include head of the Lincoln County Planning Commission, nursing school, working at a mental health unit in Portland, and now writing, which she’s recently pursued in a memoir workshop at the senior center.

The coast is the healing breath she takes with her wherever she ventures. Susan believes she has past lives (that we all do) to account for and to make amends with, as well as to understand in order to carry forth on a pathway to enlightenment. Ironically, Susan Swift says her gift of energy empathy and nursing came at a young age: “I first learned my hands could take away pain when I was 10 years old.”

Every thought you produce, anything you say, any action you do, it bears your signature.

— Thích Nh?t H?nh, Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist

Do what you love because the universe will support you. Speak and say what you want.

Be specific. Then get out of the way and let the universe take care of the details.

— Susan Swift, July 8, 2019

She laughs because her prayers for a partner were answered, but she wasn’t specific enough — “I didn’t mention that partner should be on the same continent.” That spiritual partner was living in India.

She went to India for a workshop with 45 people from 15 countries. That’s where she met this tall, dark handsome Reiki master. “He was raised Muslim, and I was raised Christian, and we came to the same spiritual place, looking for the same spiritual answers.” That was in 2005. She returned to the USA and had a spiritual awakening with him over the years — sharing emails, letters, phone calls.

“In 2010, I retired, closed up the Vancouver house, put everything I owned into my son’s house in Covington, Washington.” She spent a total of four years in India, on a wildlife refuge: Mudamalli Wildlife Refuge in Tamil Nadu. Her partner was Nijamudeen. Susan was “totally embraced by this huge Muslim family.”

Her travails get complicated as Susan courses back and forth through her own chronological history and these many points of enlightenment in her 73 years. She has a thousand stories floating around her cranium. I fill pages and pages of notes.

How she got to India, with her healing touch on a dog that had been attacked by a black panther, covers all levels of spiritual and geographical ground. She went to Egypt in 2003 on a prayer for peace journey with 250 people from 25 nations. She talks excitedly about going down the Nile and to a resort on the Red Sea. She talks about the guides and hotel charges playing the song, “Imagine” by John Lennon, wherever they went since the tour’s theme was taken from the songwriter’s famous piece.

The trip was part of a far-reaching international push to get George W. Bush and his administration to hold off on a violent attack on Iraq, to instead follow international players’ plans to get Saddam Hussein to agree to step down with loads of money.

“I told an Egyptian woman that this was my first use of a passport as an American, and I was ashamed and told her I couldn’t handle it. She held me and told me calmly: ‘America is the world’s great hope for democracy and freedoms. We understand that your president was appointed by the court and wasn’t elected by the people of your country.’”

The Enlightened Being is Really Inside Our “self”

Now rewind to 1982, and Susan Parker is headed for Seaside, to catch a talk by the Dali Llama concerning China’s latest offer to return Tibet to China. “It was quite an entourage. I was at the greeting line. Oh my gosh, there I was telling the Dali Llama I was so honored and most joyful about his visit, with my sandalwood mala in my hand. He leaned in and bonked third eyes with me.”

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A life is not always marked out with milestones set forth in an organized and clear path, but for the sake of brevity, it might be wise to follow our Central Coast resident using a timeline to get through some of her dynamic, compelling life chapters.

She grew up in a working-class family in Compton, and as stated earlier, she knew she had healing hands as a youngster placing them on her mom’s two ruptured spinal discs. The young Susan wanted to be outside playing baseball, “but my hands seemed to know what to do with the muscle spasms the size of my fists.”

Those healing hands more than five decades later would take care of a large tumor on Nami (Namaste), the Basenji dog in India she adopted, and used her healing words to help Gemmee, who has his shoulder gashed after it had outrun a black panther. “Nami never barked, just commented about everything in this yodeling song.”

Back to the Land on the Lam

Back to how she ended up in Five Rivers — she was with Calvin Parker, a Northern Montana Cheyenne she met in Pasadena. He was a sergeant in the US Army, about to be sent to Vietnam. He ended up AWOL, and the couple moved to Five Rivers where his sister was living in an old school house.

They lived in a 15-by-30, cold-water shack heated by a wood-burning-stove. “During this time, I was dreaming of a dark-haired, light-eyed girl.” (which eventually was their daughter, Autumn Rayne)

Susan ended up taking minutes for the local school committee. She found an old mimeograph machine and put together the Five Rivers Run-off Community Newsletter, stuffing flyers into mailboxes. That’s when she took notice of the herbicides issue popping up in editorials inside the Newport News Times.

“I hadn’t gone to school at that point, but I created a health form survey, passing it out door to door, all the way from Highway 34 to the mill. So many miscarriages, tumors and cancers were reported.” That was 1974, and Susan Swift shakes her head as she tells me that a scientist from OSU still advocates there is nothing wrong with 2,4,5-T.

This community of mostly women fighting the forest service and prevailing conservative strains of science worked together to build their adopted family on many levels. Susan laughs again recalling she was living in a teepee with two kids before getting her first place in Waldport. She was a single mom with a three- and 11-year-old. “They were exposed to musicians and artists coming and going all the time.” Joseph Lund graduated from Waldport High in 1985, and did the first video yearbook for the school.

She became an EMT-in-training for the Waldport Ambulance, graduating as the first woman to drive the ambulance. She ended working at a spa in Yachats. In 1978 she was lecturing at Lane Community College teaching different classes on the health effects of herbicide exposure, chemical releases in forestry and the dioxin molecule, diagramming it on the board, showing students how it worked.

She moved into her first house in Seal Rock, and put out her first shingle, “Susan Parker, LMT,” above a Waldport barbershop. The place became a center for healing. Transpersonal healing, encounters with lives, and more would begin to charge her life and encompass her interests.

“No matter what you believe, doing things out of compassion for others is as healing as we can get.”

She moved to Newport in the 1980s, at this point managing the Ocean Food Co-op. She was one of the spearheads to create an Oceana board of directors, hire a paid bookkeeper and charge a $10 yearly fee.

She met Husband Number Three at an open mic session at a local bar and eatery in Waldport. He was a guitarist and “amazingly gifted instrument maker.”

“I bought a guitar for twenty-five dollars cash and twenty-five in food stamps. I taught myself guitar and sang the songs I wanted to sing . . . positive ones. That’s when he said, ‘I like your voice.’” The marriage lasted one and a half years, but they are still friends.

With a belief in past lives, Susan takes many things both in stride and contextualized through transpersonal psychology, but she also has both feet in the waters of transglobal spirituality and multiple contexts for enlightenment and “godliness.”

Healing & Being in the Right Place Spiritually

Fate, she calls it, or her life’s proscribed journey points. She even ended up getting the finances for nursing school after working hard to take care of Mo (Mohava Niemi) who she was with until Mo died in 1992, as well as taking care of Mo’s spouse, Dutch Niemi, until he too passed on.

Dutch (he was a Finnish fisherman) had always wanted to send a child in need to college, but instead after Susan’s healing ways and hearing all the people taking care of his medical needs tell Susan she was a born natural for RN school, Dutch came through. “Dutch said he wanted to help me. That $9,000 helped me pay off bills and made it possible to go to nursing school.”

She worked for Dutch on weekends while she was at Good Samaritan Hospital in Corvallis. That healing and spiritual medical caretaking continued after nursing school graduation. She worked for a Portland neurosurgeon for three years, and she worked with the Oregon State Mental Hospital Portland campus as the lead nurse for six.

Her first nursing job was at Corvallis Manor, but she also took her caring hands and gifted spirit of empathy to a group home for developmentally disabled adults, Portland’s Eliot House.

“I treated every patient as a precious soul.”

While there was a 20-year absence from Lincoln County between 1994 and 2014, the draw to this area has been strong. She has joined up with Lincoln County Community Rights which just celebrated the two-year anniversary of its successful effort to ban aerial spraying in Lincoln County.

She’s done some driving for Yaquina Cab, shuttling people to and from the hospital. In this interview, Susan and I gravitate back to her story and her natural gifts — her abilities to organize and to start things, and her deep well of beliefs around alternative healing, energy fields on the body, and reincarnation.

These are book-level ideas, sculpted around a life still in the making, but one lived complexly and with mindfulness: with the added hues and tones of adventure, unique healing and death and dying situations painted in. One can hope she will see the light and eventually put down in writing a life well-lived, one where young and old might learn new (or old) meditative and mediation practices.

In our vapid celebrity culture, which is obsessed with putting the limelight on the rich, famous, or infamous, an authentic woman’s gritty and universal story should be compelling, to say the least.

“We have a choice everyday how we think. What you focus on, expands. We can choose how to go through this life. We need to just get out of our own way and begin living.”

•••

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Western Media portrays Hong Kong Hooligans as Heroes: but are they?

Whenever Hong Kong protesters are destroying public property, there are no cameras of Western media outlets in sight. But when police decide to intervene, protecting their city, Western media crusaders emerge in full force.

On September 15, 2019, huge US flags were waving in the air. A massive demonstration, consisting of mainly young people, was moving up from the old British-built downtown area of the city towards the US Consulate General, often erroneously called the “embassy.”

The temperature was well over 30 degrees Celsius, but the number of ‘protesters’ kept growing. Many of the main arteries in Hong Kong were entirely blocked.

Western Press in Action

Western media were there in full force, wearing yellow fluorescent vests, their ‘Press’ insignia, helmets and masks. They mingled with the crowd, filming US flags, clearly enjoying the show.

President Trump, Please Liberate Hong Kong,” I read on several posters.

Liberate from whom?” I asked a cluster of protesters, all of them in ninja outfits, metal bars in their hands, black scarves covering their faces.

Several of them replied, mumbling something incomprehensible. One girl shouted defiantly:

From Beijing!

But Hong Kong is China, isn’t it?” I asked. “How could it be liberated from itself?

No! Hong Kong is Hong Kong!” came a ready-made reply.

Oh, Trump, liberate them!

Nearby, I spotted British Union Jack, with old colonial-era Hong Kong coat of arms.

The big demonstration was clearly treasonous. Its members delivered a petition to the US consulate general, demanding that the US Congress pass legislation that would require its government to monitor and decide whether Hong Kong is ‘autonomous enough’ from the PRC, and whether it should then qualify for US trade and economic benefits.

All over the downtown area, hundreds of ‘ninjas’ were shouting pro-Western slogans. Here British-era HK flags were being waved, alongside the US flags.

I approached a young couple among the protesters, who were resting on a bench:

Do your friends realize how brutal, undemocratic and oppressive was British rule? Do they know in what misery many Hong Kong citizens had to live in that era? And about censorship, humiliation…?”

“No!” They shouted at me, outraged. “It is all propaganda!

Whose propaganda?” I wondered.

The propaganda of Beijing!

At least they spoke some English. A bizarre thing about Hong Kong is that, while some people here would like to (or are perhaps paid to say that they’d want to?) have the British colonial administration back, a great majority of the people hardly speak any English now, while also refusing to speak Mandarin. Little wonder that Hong Kong is quickly losing its edge to the pro-Chinese and highly cosmopolitan Singapore!

But the demonstration was not where ‘the action’ really was and I knew it, intuitively.

The flag-waving march was a big staged event for the Western mass media.

There, ‘pro-democracy’ slogans were chanted in an orderly manner. Nothing was burned, vandalized or dismantled wherever Western press cameras were present!

A few blocks away, however, I witnessed monstrous vandalizing, of one of the entrances to the Central subway (MTR) station. Hooligans who call themselves ‘protesters’ were ruining public property, a transportation system used by millions of citizens every day.

Attack on Central Station

While they were at it, they also dismantled public metal railings that separate sidewalks from roadways. Metal bars from this railing were later utilized for further attacks against the city infrastructure, as well as against the police.

Umbrellas in the hands of ‘protesters’ were covering the crime scene. Umbrellas similar to those used in 2014, during the previous, so-called ‘Umbrella Uprising.’

Before burning the store

No foreign reporters were in sight! This was not for the world. This was raw, real, and brutal.

Don’t film!” covered mouths began shouting at me.

I kept filming and photographing. I was not wearing any press jacket or helmet or Press insignia. I never do, anywhere in the world.

They left me alone; too busy destroying the street. As they were dismantling public property, their backpacks, stuffed with portable players, were regurgitating the US national anthem.

Attackers well equipped

My friend from Beijing wrote me a brief message:

They are selling their own nation and people. We have very bad words for them in Chinese.

But it is not only mainland China that is disgusted with what is happening in Hong Kong. Three major Hong Kong-based newspapers, Wen Wei Po, Ta Kung Pao and Hong Kong Commercial Daily, are all pro-Beijing, pro-police and are defining ‘protesters’ as “rioters” or “troublemakers” (in Chinese).

Among the big ones, only Ming Pao and Apple Daily, which are traditionally anti-Beijing, are defining ‘protesters’ as ‘gatherers’, ‘protesters’ and even “liberators.”

Local citizens are mainly (as they’d been during the 2014 riots) hostile to the ‘protests’ but are scared to confront the mainly young, covered and armed (with metal bars and clubs) gangs. Some tried to, even in a luxury mall in the center of the city, and were brutally beaten.

‘Protesters’ seem to be on adrenalin, and in a highly militant mood. They gather and move in hordes. Most of them refuse to speak.

Democracy, really?

What is important to understand is that, while the rioters are trying to spread the message that they are ‘fighting for democracy,’ they are actually highly intolerant to all those who disagree with their goals. In fact, they are violently attacking those with different opinions.

Furthermore, and this I have to spell out, after covering protests in literally hundreds of cities worldwide, from Beirut to Lima, Buenos Aires, Istanbul, Paris, Cairo, Bangkok and Jakarta: what is happening in Hong Kong is extremely mild when it comes to police responses! Hong Kong police run well and fast. It created human chains, flashed a lot of light and sporadically used tear gas. It defends itself when attacked. But violence?

If you compare police actions here to those in Paris, it is all politeness and softness. Hardly any rubber bullets. Tear gas is ‘honest’ and not mixed with deadly chemicals, like it is in many other places, and administered in small doses. No water cannon spitting liquid full of urine and excrement, as in many other cities of the world. Trust me: I am an expert in tear gas. In Istanbul, during the Gezi Park uprising, protesters had to use gas masks, so did I. Otherwise you’d faint or end up in a hospital. People are also fainting in Paris. No one is fainting here; this is mild stuff.

Ready to go

As for the ‘other side,’ the level of violence from the protesters is extreme. They are paralyzing the city, ruining millions of lives. The number of foreign arrivals in Hong Kong is down 40 percent. Reception at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, which is right next to Sunday’s battles, told me that most of the rooms are now empty, and during the ‘events’, the hotel is cut off from the world.

And what about their traitorous demands? Would this be accepted anywhere in the world? Flying flags of a foreign country (in this case, of the USA) and demanding intervention?

Hong Kong “pro-democracy activist leaders” like Joshua Wong are clearly colluding with Western interests and governments. He and others are spreading, constantly, what anywhere else would be described as fake news. For instance, “My town is the new Cold War’s Berlin,” he recently declared. Yes, perhaps, but not because of the HK government, but because of his own actions and the actions of people like himself.

Coverage of events by Western mass media is clearly selective and that is putting it mildly. Actually, many media outlets from Europe and North America are ‘adding fuel to the fire.’ They are encouraging rioters while exaggerating the actions of local police. I am monitoring and filming their work and what I see is outrageous!

I am writing this report in Tai Kwun Center. Now world-famous art complex (of  the “new, Chinese Hong Kong”), this used to be the Central Police Station under the British occupation, as well as so-called Victoria Prison Compound.

Mr. Edmond, who works for the center, explains:

If there was a referendum now, the so-called protesters would not win. They would lose. This is an internal issue of China, and it should be treated as such. A continuation of the 2014 events. What changed this time is that the protesters are opting for extreme violence now. People of Hong Kong are scared; scared of them, not of the authorities.

Here, prisoners were confined and executed, during British rule. Not far away from here, monstrous slums were housing deprived subjects of the queen. After the Brits left, those slums were converted to public parks.

Life in Hong Kong improved. Not as fast as in neighboring Shenzhen or Guangzhou, but it improved. The reason Hong Kong is being ‘left behind’ is because of its antiquated British-era laws, rules and regulations, its extreme capitalist system; because of “too little of Beijing”, not “because of too much of it.”

These hooligans are going against the interests of their own people, and their own people are now cursing them. Not loudly, yet, as rioters have clubs and metal bars, but cursing.

Western media chooses not to hear these curses. But China knows. It hears. I hear Hong Kong people, too.

Chinese curses are terrifying, powerful. And they do not dissolve in thin air.

• All photos by Andre Vltchek

• First published by RT – Russia Today

Liberals use RCMP in Attempt to Silence Critics of their Foreign Policy

On Tuesday two RCMP agents came to my house. Two large men in suits asked for me and when my partner said I wasn’t there they asked who she was.

Why didn’t they email or call me to talk or set up a meeting? If they have my address, the RCMP certainly has my email, Facebook, Skype or phone number. My partner asked for their badges, took their photo and asked them to leave the hallway they had entered.

They returned the next day. Not wanting to interact, my partner ignored them. They rang the doorbell multiple times over many minutes. After she saw people at the restaurant across the street wondering what was going on – from the ground you can see into the front of our place – she poked her head down the stairway where they caught her eye. They asked why I didn’t call even though they didn’t leave a number.

The visits are a transparent effort to intimidate me from directly challenging the government’s pro-corporate and pro-empire international policies.

The day before their first visit to my house two RCMP officers physically removed me from a press conference when I asked Transportation Minister Marc Garneau about Canadian arm sales to Saudi Arabia. When I sat down at an event that was already underway an officer took the seat next to me. When I began to ask a question at the end of the press conference he used the cover of private property to try to block me. On this video one can see the RCMP agent asking the building security twice if I’m welcome in the space. Deferring to police, the security guard tells him I’m not welcome. The RCMP agent, who doesn’t have the right to remove me from the room without a directive, then uses the authority derived from a representative of the building to physically eject me and threaten arrest.

Last Wednesday lawyer Dimitri Lascaris and I were blocked from a talk by the prime minister at the Bonaventure Hotel in a similar way. In my case an RCMP agent called out my name as I entered the hotel and then accompanied me in the elevator, through a long lobby and down an escalator to ‘introduce’ me to hotel security. The representative of the hotel then said I wasn’t welcome, which gave the officer the legal authority to ask me to leave. Lascaris details the incident in “The RCMP’s Speech Police Block Yves Engler and Me From Attending A Speech By Justin Trudeau.”

After starting to write this story, I was targeted by the RCMP for removal from a press conference by Justice Minister David Lametti. On Thursday, a Concordia University security guard, who I walked past to enter the room, came up to me 15 minutes later and asked for my press credentials. There were two dozen people in the room who didn’t have press credentials and the release for the event said nothing about needing them. The RCMP agent admitted that he asked Concordia security to approach me. He also said he was only there for the physical — not political — protection of the minister, but refused my suggestion that he and the Concordia security agents sit next/in front of me to ensure the minister’s physical safety.

(Here is the question I planned to ask the Justice Minister: “Minister Lametti, you have an important decision to make in the coming days about whether you believe in international law and consumer rights. As you know the Federal Court recently ruled against your government’s decision to allow wines produced on illegal settlements in the West Bank to be labeled as ‘Products of Israel’. While anti-Palestinian groups are pressuring your government to appeal the decision, the NDP and Greens want you to stop wasting taxpayer money on this anti-Palestinian agenda. Will you commit to accepting the court’s sensible ruling that respects consumers, international law and Palestinian rights?”)

Over the past six months Lascaris, I and other members of Solidarité Québec-Haiti and Mouvement Québécois pour la Paix have interrupted a dozen speeches/press conferences by Liberal ministers/prime minister to question their anti-Palestinian positions, efforts to topple Venezuela’s government, support for a corrupt, repressive and illegitimate Haitian president, etc. We are open about our actions and intentions, as you can read in this commentary. We film the interruptions and post them online. (If any illegal act were committed the RCMP could easily find all they need to charge me on my Facebook page!) The interruptions usually last no more than a couple of minutes. No politician has been stopped from speaking, let alone threatened or touched.

Did the RCMP receive a directive from a minister to put a stop to our challenging their policies? The federal election is on the horizon and government officials will increasingly be in public. The Trudeau government is playing up its ‘progressive’ credentials, but the interventions highlight how on one international policy after another the Liberals have sided with corporations and empire.

From the government’s perspective, having their PR announcements disrupted is a headache, but that’s democracy. The right to protest, to question, to challenge policies outweighs politicians’ comfort.

No Country for Old Protest Marchers

And all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death.
— from Shakespeare’s Macbeth

The first time I got involved in demonstrations was back in 1967, and concerned what I considered to be a crime against mankind, over in a little country in Southeast Asia called Vietnam.  Along about the same time, providence led me to drop out of Arizona State University, and enroll at the Phoenix campus extension of The Kesey College of Psychedelics.  There, I devoured the curriculum, and graduated summa cum laude with a solid “A” on the final acid test within a single semester.

Unfortunately the local draft board didn’t recognize my chosen educational institution, so there I was, a mere lad of 19 and about to lose the coveted student deferment.  Now old acidheads like me, who’ve managed to survive this far into the next century, well understand that the massive protests against The Vietnam War would likely not have happened at all, or at least not have been as widespread and successful in helping end that abominable slaughter, had it not been for two factors:  one was the only non-toxic gift given to mankind by the C.I.A….that being the empathetic power of L.S.D., and two being the instinct of self-preservation within millions of young U.S. male citizens, who were prime cannon fodder for the C.I.A./U.S. Military.  Make love not war, Dude.

The counterculture anti-war protests of that time were arguably the last successful, legitimate demonstrations to take place on U.S. soil, and likely worldwide.  But I didn’t understand that until recently.

So over the years I picked up my protest signs with vigor and enthusiasm, marching several times against Arizona’s blatantly racist legislation, known as S.B. 1070.  Thousands flooded into the streets of downtown Phoenix.  Speeches were made.  Mass chants were shouted to the heavens.  A small band of heavily-armed skinheads showed up in counter-protest.  Police presence was everywhere.  “The people united will never be defeated!” we cried.  But in the end Arizona, not surprisingly, passed the bill which mandates racial profiling from all law enforcement agencies in the state.  The people united didn’t have a chance.

Then, of course, there was the Occupy Wall Street fiasco, and maybe it’s just me but I haven’t seen any apparent change as a result.  The 99% of us remain the feudal serfs of the 1%, fighting their wars, paying their taxes to fund those wars (now fought in so many ingenious and creative new ways), guarding their national borders, overflowing prisons, banks, and gated communities, mowing their lawns, mopping their floors, swallowing their incessant media swill, and wiping their asses.

On Maui, where Monsanto Biotechnology Corporation routinely poisoned both The Valley Isle and its population with impunity, we carried out several tepid, police-directed demonstrations.  “Stay on the sidewalk!  Cross intersections only on green lights!  Keep moving because if you stop, you’re loitering and subject to arrest!”  All with Monsanto goons watching and recording from their signature nondescript beige Chevy trucks.  They were festive, fun, weekend events, complete with dogs and children, and guess how much good they did!  At any given moment in the U.S. of A., we are all being exposed to untold millions of gallons of Monsanto’s Roundup Weed and Sentient Being Killer.  Glyphosate:  The gift that keeps on giving.  You can’t walk into a Lowe’s or Home Depot without stumbling over a few thousand plastic jugs of the malignant carcinogenic fluid labeled “Roundup”.

It occurs to me now that all those protests were just good physical exercise, and little more.  Even less successful if you were among those who got arrested, gassed, or had their heads busted in the process.  The thing is…fixing one small piece of a system that’s already hopelessly broken is an act of futility.  Women’s rights?  Forget it.  Gay rights, minority rights, immigrant rights, gun control, equal internet access…all just lounge chairs on the deck of the Titanic, and no matter how you arrange them…you know the rest.

Somehow, the C.I.A. must have been too involved with moving drugs and weapons in Southeast Asia, back in my youth, to pay attention to how well Wall Street’s media circus was covering the protests on U.S. soil.  Thanks to nonstop, uncut film footage, the anti-war movement grew from the overt actions of a small minority into something popular with a majority of citizens.  The scale was tipped after Kent State, and the Vietnam War ended with a whimper.  The 1% learned the lesson well, and subsequent civil disobedience in the streets has been marginalized or ignored, as per official government directives to all mainstream “news” sources.  During the Vietnam days we’d chant “The whole world is watching.”  Today most U.S. citizens don’t have a clue what their government does in their names, and their reality consists of so-called reality television shows.

Above all else, the media’s job is to keep the 99% from suspecting that there are some basic flaws in the so-called democracy we’re instructed to worship like a god and love more than life.  Voting?  A completely ineffectual act.  There is only one party to vote into office, and whether red or blue, the result will always be the same.  Trump is Obama.  The media trick is to keep the circus running seamlessly in all three rings.  Keep the military lions and tigers leaping through fiery hoops, squeeze two dozen republican clowns into a tiny car, and leave the audience breathless with death defying feats of D.N.C. trapeze artists.  Punctuate all this with a few beers and hotdogs, a heartfelt, teary-eyed rendition of The Star Spangled Banner, a few disabled veterans (preferably with missing limbs), and an earth-shaking flyover by The Blue Angels, and you’ve got the perfect combination for keeping the masses forever clueless with an overdose of bread and circuses.

Those of us who refuse to attend the circus have a thankless task ahead of us if we attempt to spoil the illusions for the vast majority.  We Americans have been assured that we are God’s (the Christian god’s) chosen ones.  We live in the land of the free and home of the brave.  We are Obama’s exceptional people, and superior to any and all of the lesser folks in inferior countries.  Our government reserves the right of Wall Street to worldwide resources, regardless of where they might be located.  Our warfare now includes mass-starvation and death through sanctions and embargos, bought and staged foreign government crushing demonstrations, assassinations, and whatever it takes to maintain power and control over our underlings and their valuables.

Protesting for causes is a completely worthless act, unless you just need to blow off some steam and shout in the streets without being locked up for insanity or for disturbing the peace.  The only possible way to end racial profiling is to open the borders of all nations to every earthling.  Ending S.B. 1070 would be the equivalent of pissing on a forest fire.  Occupying Wall Street might have seemed like a good idea at the time, but the only way to end hunger, homelessness, poverty, obscene wealth, and voracious greed would be to take control of government out of Wall Street’s hands, placing it firmly into the embrace of all citizens.  Even poor ones.  Monsanto’s crimes against humanity are only one tiny facet of the injustice perpetuated by thousands of predatory corporations which claim both personhood and immunity from responsibility for their crimes.  And if you still believe that marching in the streets for social issues will do any good, perhaps you should be locked up for insanity.  Your voice goes unheard, and makes no noise at all, falling upon absent ears like a tree in a remote, unoccupied forest.

And all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death, claimed the Bard of Avon.  People who agree with my assessments of the foolishness of mankind have been warning about nuclear holocaust and the end of the world for my entire life.  Now it appears that the arms race with a reluctant but goaded Russia is kicking back into high gear, and that the end time may indeed be at hand.  I don’t usually like being wrong, but in this case I don’t want to be right.  And buying a portfolio of stock in corporations specializing in the manufacture of W.M.D.’s would be no silver lining in that dark cloud.  I hear that rich folks bleed just like you and me.  Let’s do everything we can to avoid finding out.  Hasta la victoria siempre!

The Ongoing Dread in Gaza: So Many Names, So Many Lives

I felt shaky and uneasy all day, preparing for this talk.

— Jehad Abusalim, a Palestinian from the territory of Gaza

Jehad Abusalim, a Palestinian now living in the United States, grew up Gaza. In Chicago last week, addressing activists committed to breaking the siege of Gaza,  he held up a stack of 31 papers. On each page were names of 1,254 Palestinians living in Gaza who had been killed in just one month of Israel’s “Operation Protective Edge” attacks five years ago.

“I felt shaky and uneasy all day preparing for this talk,” he told the group. He described his dismay when, looking through the list of names, he recognized one of a young man from his small town.

“He was always friendly to me,” Abusalim said. “I remember how he would greet me on the way to the mosque. His family and friends loved him, respected him.”

Abusalim recalled the intensity of losing loved ones and homes; of seeing livelihoods and infrastructure destroyed by aerial attacks; of being unable to protect the most vulnerable. He said it often takes ten years or more before Palestinian families traumatized by Israeli attacks can begin talking about what happened. Noting Israel’s major aerial attacks in 2009, 2013, and 2014, along with more recent attacks killing participants in the “Great March of Return,” he spoke of ongoing dread about what might befall Gaza’s children the next time an attack happens.

Eighty people gathered to hear Abusalim and Retired Colonel Ann Wright, of US Boat to Gaza, as they helped launch the “Free Gaza Chicago River Flotilla,” three days of action culminating on July 20 with a spirited demonstration by “kayactivists” and boaters, along with onshore protesters, calling for an end to the siege of Gaza. Wright resigned from her post as a U.S. diplomat when the United States launched the 2003 Shock and Awe bombing of Iraq. Having participated in four previous internationals flotillas aiming to defy Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza’s shoreline, Wright is devoting her energies preparing for a fifth in 2020.

Another organizer and member of US Boat to Gaza, Elizabeth Murray, who like Wright formerly worked for the U.S. government, recalled being in a seminar sponsored by a prestigious think tank in Washington, D.C., when a panel member compared Israeli attacks against Palestinians with routine efforts to “mow the lawn.” She recounted hearing a light tittering as the D.C. audience members expressed amusement. But, Murray said, “Not a single person objected to the panelist’s remark.” This was in 2010, following Israel’s 2009 Operation Cast Lead, which killed 1,383 Palestinians, 333 of whom were children.

Abusalim’s colleague at the American Friends Service Committee, Jennifer Bing, had cautioned Chicago flotilla planners to carefully consider the tone of their actions. A colorful and lively event during a busy weekend morning along Chicago’s popular riverfront could be exciting and, yes, fun.

But Palestinians in Gaza cope with constant tension, she noted. Denied freedom of movement, they live in the world’s largest open-air prison, under conditions the United Nations has predicted will render their land uninhabitable by 2020. Households get four to six hours of electricity per day. According to UNICEF, “sewage treatment plants can’t operate fully and the equivalent of forty-three Olympic-sized swimming pools of raw or partly treated sewage is pumped into the sea every day.”

Facing cruel human rights violations on a daily basis, the organizers urge solidarity in the form of boycotts, divestment, and sanctions. U.S. residents bear particular responsibility for Israel’s military attacks against civilians, they note, as the United States has supplied Israel with billions of dollars for military buildup.

U.S. companies profit hugely from selling weapons to Israel. For example, Boeing, with headquarters in Chicago, sells Israel Apache helicopters, Hellfire and Harpoon missiles, JDAM guiding systems and Small Diameter Bombs that deliver Dense Inert Metal Explosive munitions. All of these weapons have been used repeatedly in Israeli attacks on densely populated civilian areas.

During the 2009 Operation Cast Lead, I was in Rafah, Gaza, listening to children explaining the difference between explosions caused by F-16 fighter jets dropping 500-pound bombs and Apache helicopters firing Hellfire missiles.

Israel continues using those weapons, and Israeli purchases fatten Boeing’s financial portfolios.

At Boeing Company, Names of people killed in Israel’s Operation Protective Edge are read aloud; Elizabeth Murray sounds a gong after each name.  (Photo credit: Barbara Briggs Letson)

On July 19, young Palestinians outside of the Israeli consulate read aloud the names of people who had, five years ago, been killed in Gaza. We listened solemnly and then proceeded to Boeing’s Chicago headquarters, again listening as youngsters read more names, punctuated by a solemn gong after each victim was remembered. Ultimately, 2,104 Palestinians, more than two-thirds of whom were civilians, including 495 children, were killed during the seven-week attack on the Gaza Strip in 2014.

Banner dropping over a bridge crossing the Chicago River: Israel, Stop Killing Palestinians (Photo Credit: Barbara Briggs Letson)

During the Free Gaza Chicago River flotilla on July 20, Husam Marajda, from the Arab American Action Network, sat in a small boat next to his grandfather, who was visiting from Palestine. His chant, “From Palestine to Mexico, all the walls have got to go!” echoed from the water to the shore. Banners were dropped from bridges above, the largest reading, “Israel, Stop Killing Palestinians.”

Kayakers on the Chicago River display Free Gaza sign (Photo Credit: Barbara Briggs Letson)

Kayakers wore red T-shirts announcing the “Gaza Unlocked” campaign and managed to display flags, connected by string, spelling out “Free Gaza.” Passengers on other boats flashed encouraging peace signs and thumbs up signals. Those processing along the shore line, carrying banners and signs, walked the entirety of our planned route before a sergeant from the Chicago Police Department arrived to say we needed a permit.

We can’t permit ourselves to remain silent. Following the energetic flotilla activity, I sat with several friends in a quiet spot. “So many names,” said one friend, thinking of the list Abusalim had held up. “So many lives,” said another.

• A version of this article was published July 23rd, 2019 at The Progressive

Rising Resistance And Solidarity In The Americas

“If there isn’t justice for the people, there won’t be peace for the governor.” Protesters in Old San Juan on Tuesday call for the resignation of Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, who has vowed to remain in office (Thais Llorca/EFE/Zuma Press)

This weekend marks the 40th anniversary of the Sandanista Revolution in Nicaragua. Hundreds of thousands of people celebrated in the streets of Managua Friday night. This past week, mass protests erupted in Puerto Rico over long term corruption and subversion of democracy. A general strike is planned for Monday.

This week is the 25th Sao Paulo Forum, a meeting of left political parties and social movements, in Caracas, Venezuela. We participated in a Sao Paulo Forum of Washington, DC in preparation for the upcoming meeting. A delegation of Venezuelan Embassy Protectors is traveling to Caracas to participate in it.

Latin America has a long history of resistance to US domination and solidarity with social movements in the United States. This resistance and solidarity is critical to our success in the United States if we are to stop the machine and create a new world.

40th anniversary of Sandanista Revolution in Nicaragua (By Ben Norton, Twitter)

Resisting US Coup Attempts and Building the Good Life

Forty years ago, the Sandanista Front for National Liberation, named after Augusto Sandino, a revolutionary in the 1920s and 30s, ousted the US-backed dictator, Anastasia Somoza, from the country. This day, now called the National Day of Happiness, is celebrated every year. Check out The Grayzone Project’s Twitter feed for videos of the celebrations.

Under the leadership of the Junta of National Reconstruction, which included the future leader and president Daniel Ortega, Nicaraguans took action to provide healthcare, education, eradicate illiteracy, build roads and energy infrastructure, provide land and develop food sovereignty. They greatly reduced both economic and gender inequality.

Nicaraguans enjoyed a stable life until an attempted coup to remove President Ortega, backed by the United States, in mid-2018. Similar to pro-coup protests in Venezuela, there were blockades built by violent coup-supporters who attacked and brutally killed 198 police officers, Sandanistas and bystanders. That coup attempt was stopped despite the media lies designed to confuse the public. A year later, the truth continues to emerge but peace prevails once again. An excellent book, Live From Nicaragua: Uprising or a Coup, A Reader, breaks through the false narratives of the attempted coup and gives information helpful to understanding the situation in Nicaragua.

A delegation from Veterans for Peace is visiting Nicaragua for the anniversary. We look forward to their reports. We attended a celebration at the Nicaraguan Embassy in Washington, DC hosted by Ambassador Francisco Campbell. He described current efforts in Nicaragua to bring truth and reconciliation to reunite a country divided by US interference and the coup attempt.

Nicaragua is a member of the United States’ “Troika of Tyranny,” which includes Cuba and Venezuela. These are three Latin American countries that have broken from US domination and continue to be punished for expressing their self-determination.

Cuba has been experiencing a blockade since 1958, which has driven the country to develop a resistance economy without reliance on foreign goods. Although the blockades have hurt their economy and restricted access to necessities, such as medications, Cubans have better health outcomes than people in the United States due to their well-designed universal healthcare system.

Venezuela continues to resist the current US-led coup attempt, even though the United States is taking it to new extremes. This past week, USAID, a regime change institution, announced the Trump administration is going to use almost $42 million designated for aid to Central America to pay for salaries and supplies for the right-wing opposition led by the self-declared president, Juan Guaido. The corruption of Guaido’s people continues to be exposed. Two more members of Guaido’s team were arrested for trying to sell stolen weapons.

Will Mexico be next? Arturo Sanchez Jimenez outlines what he sees as the early stages of a right-wing coup targeting the new president, AMLO.

Join the People’s Mobilization to Stop the US War Machine and Save the Planet this September in New York City. Learn more here.

Protest in Puerto Rico calling for Governor to resign (by Juan Carlos Dávila)

Resistance is Growing in Latin America

Ecuador was making great strides in meeting its population’s needs under President Rafael Correa, but that is being reversed by the current president, Lenin Moreno. Moreno is known worldwide for ending Julian Assange’s asylum and allowing police into the London Embassy to arrest him, but his actions against the Ecuadorian peoples has been similarly harsh. Moreno campaigned on continuing Correa’s programs but has done the opposite. In this interview, Andres Arauz, a member of Correa’s economic team, explains Ecuador’s neoliberal turn under Moreno.

Ecuadorians launched a five-day general strike last Monday to protest “handing over Ecuador to US imperialism.” Among their complaints were Ecuador imposing austerity after receiving a loan from the International Monetary Fund, a US military base proposed in the Galapagos Islands and the imprisonment of Julian Assange.

Mass protests have also erupted in Puerto Rico. Hundreds of thousands of people, many who have never protested before, are taking the streets in San Juan and throughout Puerto Rico. They are facing police repression with tear gas and pepper spray. On Monday, they are holding a general strike.

The protests began when hundreds of pages of chat logs between Governor Ricardo Rosello and other officials were released. They contained derogatory statements and disrespect for the thousands who died after Hurricane Maria. Protesters are calling for the Governor to resign. Other government officials included in the chats have already resigned.

Although the chats were the proverbial “last straw,” according to Miguel Diaz-Cruz, a Puerto Rican doctoral student, the protests are the result of “five centuries of uninterrupted imperialism, free-market disaster capitalism, an imposed dictatorial fiscal control board controlled by the very same people that bankrupted the island, and a storm of the century which was fueled by climate change.”

We spoke with Puerto Rican lawyer, Natasha Bannan, who has participated in the protests, on Clearing the FOG. The episode will be published on Monday. She goes into depth on the problems Puerto Ricans are facing, describes what it will take to start the process of resolving them and explains how activists can be supportive.

The 40th anniversary of the Sandanista Revolution is celebrated in Washington, DC with Americans from many countries at the Nicaraguan Embassy (Popular Resistance)

Why Resistance and Solidarity Matter to Activists in the United States

People in the United States often refer to themselves as “Americans.” Sadly, this is not done in the spirit that all people in the Americas, South, and North, are Americans. Instead, we in the US are taught to see the other Americans as different from us. This is part of US hegemony and the Monroe Doctrine that views Latin America as “our backyard.” It’s why people in the US, USians, accept unilateral coercive economic measures, exploitative trade deals and violent coups that harm other Americans.

All Americans are victims of US actions that destabilize and exploit American territories. We probably don’t think about it that way very much, but what hurts our neighbors hurts us. Blockades mean that USians can’t benefit from medical breakthroughs in Cuba or inexpensive oil programs from Venezuela. Exploitative trade deals mean US jobs are moved South of the border to Mexico, Honduras, Haiti and other countries where wages are lower and there are fewer worker protections.

In the United States, we are also victims of the US Empire. The Empire Economy consumes over 60% of federal discretionary spending on the military. This means less money for necessary programs to provide healthcare, education, housing, and food. The massive US weapons and military industry mean new “customers” must always be found for the products they make, which fuels wars abroad that add to global insecurity and destruction and militarization of our communities at home where the “others” are black and brown people, the poor and homeless. The US military is the largest institutional user of fossil fuels and a major polluter, driving the climate crisis and environmental contamination.

If we are to overcome the US Empire, it will take all of us together. This is one reason why solidarity between all Americans is essential. We in the United States have much to learn from our American brothers and sisters who have been targets of imperialism for centuries. We also have much to learn about the ways countries like Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela are working to reduce inequality, meet basic needs and provide a better quality of life for their peoples.

Events like the Sao Paulo Forum are opportunities to come together, get to know and learn from each other. A delegation from the Embassy Protective Collective will attend the Sao Paulo Forum this week in Venezuela. We cannot attend because of our ongoing prosecution by the Trump administration for staying in the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, DC, but we are sending Vanessa Beck, a representative from Popular Resistance who will bring a message of solidarity. Vanessa is also a leader of Black Alliance for Peace.

We also attended the Sao Paulo Forum in Washington, DC where we agreed to ten resolutions of solidarity that will be brought to the Forum in Venezuela. At the DC Forum, the Embassy Protection Collective was presented with a powerful painting by the indigenous Salvadoran artist, William Berry. Dan Kovalik donated copies of his new book, The Plot to Overthrow Venezuela, which were sold at the forum to raise funds for the Embassy Protectors Defense Committee.

Learn more about the Embassy Protectors Defense Committee at DefendEmbassyProtectors.org and how you can participate to support the collective’s defense against malicious US prosecution.

Resistance is rising. We can join together in that resistance with acts of solidarity to stop the US war machine and create a new world.

Trump’s Attack against Immigrants Meets Resistance

Photo Credit:  Bill Hackwell

Nearly 800 events took place this weekend across the United States organized by grassroots organizations including religious sectors, community groups, students, labor and many individuals who had had enough of the Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids taking place in working and poor communities against immigrants and Trump’s concentration camps on the border with Mexico.

The protests feel different this time and seem broader; going beyond activists and progressive people to include folks who feel Trump’s actions embarrass the US in front of the world and thousands upon thousands who feel compelled to come out to express their disgust and outrage at the basic inhumanity and injustice of it all. Most of the signs were homemade and many of the signs in the protests referenced previous dark periods in US history where groups of people were put in concentration camps just for their ethnicity and origin including Japanese Americans during World War II, former slaves after the civil war and Native Americans as part of a long campaign of ethnic cleansing.

The recent visit to the camps by a group of democrat congresswomen who finally spoke out about what they saw with their own eyes prompted the corporate media to have to cover the issue and the degree of suffering of thousands of poor immigrants fleeing conditions created by neoliberal policies that originated in the US.

The images seen in recent days have settled into the minds of anyone with any level of consciousness and compassion living in the United States. Children separated from their parents, bodies floating in the Rio Grande trying to reach the North and the openly announced raids by Trump this weekend as a way of terrorizing the immigrant community has motivated hundreds of thousands to protest in a variety of ways.

This movement has created a problem for Trump so on the eve of the ICE raids in cities across the US he sent his equally reactionary Vice President, Mike Pence to the border to assure everyone, through the compliant corporate media, that the conditions at the camps were good while he patted the guards of these concentration camps on the back for a job well done.

Meanwhile, Pro Publica is reporting that the Department of Homeland Security is investigating a disgusting racist and anti-immigrant Facebook page made up of 9,500 current and former border agents. And as if that was not bad enough the Department of Health and Human Services is investigating thousands of allegations of sexual assault on minors who were abused by the very guards in the camps Pence visited.

The hollow words coming from the Trump administration has back-fired and has only served to encourage this weekend’s demonstrations. More actions are planned for next week and are a testimony that from now on people will continue to resist the Trump administration’s racist and anti-human policies toward the immigrant community. Painted as evil, immigrants come to this country to work primarily in the most dangerous and menial jobs to try and give a dignified life to their loved ones. Even if the American Dream is more like a nightmare they will continue to come not because they want to leave their homeland but because their countries have been looted by the U.S.

Canada enables corrupt Haitian president to remain in power

At the front of a protest against Haiti’s president last week a demonstrator carried a large wooden cross bearing the flags of Canada, France and the US. The Haiti Information Project tweeted that protesters “see these three nations as propping up the regime of President Jovenel Moïse. It is also recognition of their role in the 2004 coup.”

Almost entirely ignored by the Canadian media, Haitian protesters regularly criticize Canada. On dozens of occasions since Jean Bertrand Aristide’s government was overthrown in 2004 marchers have held signs criticizing Canadian policy or rallied in front of the Canadian Embassy in Port-au-Prince. For their part, Haiti Progrès and Haiti Liberté newspapers have described Canada as an “occupying force”, “coup supporter” or “imperialist” at least a hundred times.

In the face of months of popular protest, Canada remains hostile to the protesters who represent the impoverished majority. A recent corruption investigation by Haiti’s Superior Court of Auditors and Administrative Disputes has rekindled the movement to oust the Canadian-backed president. The report into the Petrocaribe Fund accuses Moïse’s companies of swindling $2 million of public money. Two billion dollars from a discounted oil program set up by Venezuela was pilfered under the presidency of Moïse’s mentor Michel Martelly.

Since last summer there have been numerous protests, including a weeklong general strike in February, demanding accountability for public funds. Port-au-Prince was again paralyzed during much of last week. In fact, the only reason Moïse — whose electoral legitimacy is paper thin — is hanging on is because of support from the so-called “Core Group” of “Friends of Haiti”.

Comprising the ambassadors of Canada, France, Brazil, Germany and the US, as well as representatives of Spain, EU and OAS, the “Core Group” released another statement effectively backing Moise. The brief declaration called for “a broad national debate, without preconditions”, which is a position Canadian officials have expressed repeatedly in recent weeks. (The contrast with Canada’s position regarding Venezuela’s president reveals a stunning hypocrisy.) But, the opposition has explicitly rejected negotiating with Moïse since it effectively amounts to abandoning protest and bargaining with a corrupt and illegitimate president few in Haiti back.

In another indication of the “Core Group’s” political orientation, their May 30 statement “condemned the acts of degradation committed against the Senate.” Early that day a handful of opposition senators dragged out some furniture and placed it on the lawn of Parliament in a bid to block the ratification of the interim prime minister. Canada’s Ambassador André Frenette also tweeted that “Canada condemns the acts of vandalism in the Senate this morning. This deplorable event goes against democratic principles.” But, Frenette and the “Core Group” didn’t tweet or release a statement about the recent murder of journalist Pétion Rospide, who’d been reporting on corruption and police violence. Nor did they mention the commission that found Moïse responsible for stealing public funds or the recent UN report confirming government involvement in a terrible massacre in the Port-au-Prince neighborhood of La Saline in mid-November. Recent Canadian and “Core Group” statements completely ignore Moise’s electoral illegitimacy and downplay the enormity of the corruption and violence against protesters.

Worse still, Canadian officials regularly promote and applaud a police force that has been responsible for many abuses. As I detailed in a November story headlined “Canada backs Haitian government, even as police force kills demonstrators”, Frenette attended a half dozen Haitian police events in his first year as ambassador. Canadian officials continue to attend police ceremonies, including one in March, and offer financial and technical support to the police. Much to the delight of the country’s über class-conscious elite, Ottawa has taken the lead in strengthening the repressive arm of the Haitian state since Aristide’s ouster.

On Wednesday Frenette tweeted, “one of the best parts of my job is attending medal ceremonies for Canadian police officers who are known for their excellent work with the UN police contingent in Haiti.” RCMP officer Serge Therriault leads the 1,200-person police component of the Mission des Nations unies pour l’appui à la Justice en Haïti (MINUJUSTH).

At the end of May Canada’s ambassador to the UN Marc-André Blanchard led a United Nations Economic and Social Council delegation to Haiti. Upon his return to New York he proposed creating a “robust” mission to continue MINUJUSTH’s work after its planned conclusion in mid-October. Canadian officials are leading the push to extend the 15-year old UN occupation that took over from the US, French and Canadian troops that overthrew Aristide’s government and was responsible for introducing cholera to the country, which has killed over 10,000.

While Haitians regularly challenge Canadian policy, few in this country raise objections. In response to US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s recent expression of solidarity with Haitian protesters, Jean Saint-Vil put out a call titled “OH CANADA, TIME TO BE WOKE LIKE ILHAN OMAR & MAXINE WATERS!” The Haitian Canadian activist wrote:

While, in Canada, the black population is taken for granted by major political parties who make no effort to adjust Canadian Foreign policies towards African nations, Haiti and other African-populated nations of the Caribbean, where the Euro-Americans topple democratically-elected leaders, help set up corrupt narco regimes that are friendly to corrupt Canadian mining companies that go wild, exploiting the most impoverished and blackest among us, destroying our environments in full impunity… In the US, some powerful voices have arisen to counter the mainstream covert and/or overt white supremacist agenda. Time for REAL CHANGE in Canada! The Wine & Cheese sessions must end! We eagerly await the statements of Canadian party leaders about the much needed change in Canadian Policy towards Haiti. You will have to deserve our votes, this time around folks!

Unfortunately, Canadian foreign policymakers — the Liberal party in particular — have co-opted/pacified most prominent black voices on Haiti and other international issues. On Monday famed Haitian-Canadian novelist Dany Laferrière attended a reception at the ambassador’s residence in Port-au-Prince while the head of Montréal’s Maison d’Haïti, Marjorie Villefranche, says nary a word about Canadian imperialism in Haiti. A little discussed reason Paul Martin’s government appointed Michaëlle Jean Governor General in September 2005 was to dampen growing opposition to Canada’s coup policy among working class Haitian-Montrealers.

Outside the Haitian community Liberal-aligned groups have also offered little solidarity. A look at the Federation of Black Canadians website and statements uncovers nothing about Canada undermining a country that dealt a massive blow to slavery and white supremacy. (Members of the group’s steering committee recently found time, however, to meet with and then attend a gala put on by the anti-Palestinian Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs.)

A few months ago, Saint-Vil proposed creating a Canadian equivalent to the venerable Washington, D.C. based TransAfrica, which confronts US policy in Africa and the Caribbean. A look at Canadian policy from the Congo to Venezuela, Burkina Faso to Tanzania, suggests the need is great. Anyone seeking to amplify the voices from the streets of Port-au-Prince should support such an initiative.